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Striving for neutrality in library organizations and libraries

  • Do these deserve equal representation along with historical studies of World War II and personal stories of Holocaust survivors?
  • Again, inclusion of the hate speech of Mein Kampf was not an endorsement;
  • Members of LITA come from all different walks of life;
  • I loafe and invite my soul,.

Lewis Why, here at the beginning of the twenty-first century, are we putting together a volume of papers that question the role of neutrality within librarianship?

In fact, why question neutrality at all?

  • Then we deny them the common legacy of humanity;
  • In fact, they can expect it;
  • So my safety requires someone else's silence;
  • As an educator of future librarians, I wish that this sense of advocacy extended beyond the individual library to the profession itself.

Certainly it has been seen as a virtue among librarians that we do not allow ourselves to be driven solely by our own viewpoints, but rather strive to make available to library patrons a range of information sources covering a variety of opinions and ideas.

Historically, libraries have been one of the places where citizens can be exposed to a variety of viewpoints, including unpopular or minority views. In our democratic society, this has been held up as a public good.

Libraries Respond: 2016 Election

This is well and good, but we soon find ourselves on a very slippery slope. No two people seem to express the same opinion on the topic, and the situation and viewpoints along with it changes weekly, if not daily.

If we were somehow able to make available all viewpoints, or failing that, a healthy range of viewpoints, should we consider each of these viewpoints equally valid and deserving of equal amounts of shelf space and budget dollars? And what about viewpoints expressing Neo-Nazi ideology or Holocaust denial? Do these deserve equal representation along with historical studies of World War II and personal stories of Holocaust survivors?

Core Values of Librarianship

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, has some bearing here. Likewise, I would include some representation of neo-Nazi or Holocaust denial materials in an adult library collection, in order to understand their arguments and be better prepared to argue against them. But creationism and Holocaust denial have been discredited by the vast majority of the scientists and historians, respectively.

Striving for neutrality in library organizations and libraries

Even if it were possible for me to wash away all influences that sway me in a particular direction, I would not want to achieve that state of neutrality. From a moral standpoint, I have no desire to remain neutral when faced with a choice between science based on the scientific method or science based on theology, and between historical fact or hate speech.

  1. After being taken down twice by Blogger within a single week, we got striving for neutrality in library organizations and libraries the message. People who start shouting at or punching other patrons get kicked out or arrested.
  2. Spreading it had the potential to cause real harm to his community.
  3. In fact, they can expect it. Recently, a librarian asked me, "Suppose someone asks me for contact information for a hate group.
  4. But conservative communities will likely wind up with more Ann Coulter than Al Franken. In fact, why question neutrality at all?
  5. But, I said, that didn't stop him from doing his own, library-sponsored programming.

As an educator of future librarians, I wish that this sense of advocacy extended beyond the individual library to the profession itself. I am continuously disheartened by the lack of understanding of or support for libraries and librarians in the larger society. Underfunding and deprofessionalization are two symptoms of a potentially fatal illness within the library profession.

  • Some contestants had to start further back, or fight obstacles in the course;
  • Historically, libraries have been one of the places where citizens can be exposed to a variety of viewpoints, including unpopular or minority views;
  • Nor does believing in neutrality mean we always live up to our values.

The essays that follow all relate to neutrality in a philosophical or practical sense, and sometimes both. They are a selection of essays originally published in Progressive Librarianthe journal of the Progressive Librarians Guild, and they are presented in the chronological order of their appearance there.